A couple weeks ago, I tweeted a question, asking for a a link to the SharePoint Online Service Agreement. I was looking for information about the back-up and restore options performed by Microsoft Office 365 Support. We are currently working on a large Intranet portal within SharePoint Online. A major part of the implementation is the information architecture. I have to create the site structure and decide between site collections and / or sites. One important factor in the decision is the backup & restore process. I really needed an answer to the following questions:
1. What are the restore options from MS Office 365 Support? Do they restore only site collections? Or sites, document libraries & lists, documents & items?
2. How do they restore these items? In place or as additional content with a different filename?
To be honest, I was having problems finding a clear answer to these important questions! I decided to submit a service request with Microsoft Office 365 Support. I received the following reply:
If for some reason data can’t be recovered through the GUI, we provide backup available on the server. For this you need to log the request up to 14 days after accident occurs. This way we can restore files/folders/libraries/main site collections and sub site collections. Basically most items under a site collection. The restore is made by overwriting the existing data. Any duplicate entries are not lost. Duplicate items are restored with the number 1 in the end and it’s up to you which one you would like to keep. The restore can’t be done on a separated location.
Wow, this is important stuff. First of all, you are always going to receive a backup with old data. This results in being stuck with duplicate files with a number 1 in the end. That’s very time consuming to get everything sorted after the backup. You don’t want to restore a complete site collection for just one library or item right? I asked a follow-up question:
“Do you always restore a site collection? No matter the type of content we would like to restore, for example a document library.”
I received the following answer:
If a restore is needed for a document library under a main site collection, then the whole site collection will need to be restored. If the library is placed under a sub site, then we can restore just the sub site. So it’s advisable if you are planning to have multiple libraries, to spread them under sub sites.
Again, very important! Only site collections or sites are restored. Never lists, libraries, items or documents. The good thing is at least that sub sites are also being restored and not only the site collection. This information is very important for governance & compliancy purposes. You have to tell your customers, or your own company, about the backup & restore options, basically limitations, within SharePoint Online. In case you really need to have longer, or granular, backups you have to look into 3rd party solutions. I don’t have experience with one so I can’t recommend any. Try and search on Google. Please leave feedback in case you have a recommendation.
I hope the above information is helpful for everyone with the same questions I had. I want to thank a selection of people for providing information: Maarten Eekels, Marco Faasse, Rene Modery, Trevor Seward and Juan Carlos González. Thanks guys!
Maarten Eekels provided valuable input: